More Delays and Winter Days…

The wisdom is that a watched kettle never boils. That being the case, I almost wish that we were not getting weekly updates from our builder. It’s kind of like peeking into that slow-simmering kettle. With each week, there is a new delay. There is apparently a shortage of concrete, and winter weather has become a convenient excuse for the lack of progress on our house. Unlike the kettle, my boiling point is near-at-hand.

Winter weather is causing me angst at the homesite, but it sure is glorious on the Gulf. If you have to endure the short days, and cold nights, it’s easier in Southern Alabama. The beaches are virtually deserted, the air is cool, the sun is warm, and the opportunities for outdoor activities are endless.

There are roughly 500 RV sites at Gulf State Park, and they are not tightly packed together. There is ample room to spread out without infringing upon neighboring sites. The park boasts miles and miles of paved trails, and boardwalk, as well as two miles of sandy beachfront. There are tennis courts, pickle ball courts, a swimming pool, nature center and laundry facilities. It’s not a bad place to be when dealing with delays.

And so, the end of January nears, and February is approaching the starting gate. The shortest month is notoriously the worst month for inclement weather in the mid-Atlantic. I am not feeling much confidence in making significant headway on the house. I have grown cynical in my old age. Rather than to see the world through rose colored glasses, I buy rosé and pour it into glasses. When the world makes you wait, wine helps.

I wish I had the penchant for acceptance that our Labrador has. Gypsy, is not disturbed by the setbacks, she has mastered the art of finding joy in spite of circumstance.

One more week to explore Gulf Shores, then on to Florida’s panhandle.

Let’s hope that our project manager does not give up home construction for Lent.

Stay tuned…..

A Plumbing Fix, The “Sticks”, and a Motel 6

Let’s see. Where were we? Oh, that’s right, our water filter was erupting like Mount Saint Helen’s and we did not have the proper hardware to fix the problem. On the bright side, it’s easy to get 10,000 steps registered to your Fitbit when you have to use the bathhouse for all of your daily needs. But seriously, I walk enough. I needed water.

You would think it would be easy to find a plumbing fitting. Not so. It was like searching for Atlantis. Loew’s said, “Try Home Depot. Home Depot said, “Try Camper’s World”. Camper’s World said, “Try Marvin’s”. I didn’t know Marvin, but he’s my new best buddy. Turns out that Marvin’s is a building supply chain in the Southeast that carries 1/2″, elbowed, pex fittings. Eureka! We would be high, dry, and fully functional for our next stop.

Sherling Lake Campground was out in “the sticks” and had probably been there since the Eisenhower presidency. It’s old. Really old. It’s neat and tidy, fully operational and run by very friendly folks. It’s the aging infrastructure that is indicative of its maturity.

Call me crazy, but I really like these old recreational areas. When I wander the trails, I feel the ghosts of generations of picnickers, hikers, campers and anglers.

Speaking of anglers, we did happen upon a trawler who was fishing at the 5th hole on the neighboring golf course. Only in Alabama…

The town of Greenville, was close by and we finally had a sunny day for a little exploration. Known as the Camellia City, the quaint downtown boasts unique examples of 19th and 20th century architecture as well as an art deco style movie house.

Oh, yes, I nearly forgot to mention that we also found some unique retail in Greenville.

When you live in a truck, without a washer and dryer, your wardrobe is limited. Thus you tend to wear the same outfits multiple times. If you live in a truck with a Labrador, your minimal apparel tends to be covered in dog hair. In short, our duds are a disaster. We are about as far from Mr. & Mrs. Style as is humanly possible.

“Inviting people to laugh with you while you are laughing at yourself is a good thing to do. You may be a fool but you’re the fool in charge.”

Carl Reiner

I was ready to move on. In January, I am always in search of warmer weather.

Due to tornadic activity sweeping into the Gulf Shores area, we spent our first night on the Gulf of Mexico at a Motel 6. I tend to be anxious, and was not on board with spending the night in an RV, with tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, and shear line winds. Call me paranoid, but with all of Bertha’s recent antics, I had to be sure that she was not secretly plotting to finish me off with a funnel cloud.

We have arrived at the calm after the storm. Gulf State Park has beachfront and miles and miles of multi-use trails.

Bertha survived the tempest. The sun is out. Nothing is leaking.

Stay tuned…

Bye to the ‘Burgh. Aloha Alabama. The Saga Continues… Volume II

It’s always bittersweet to say farewell to the holiday season. The cookies are eaten, the ornaments are carefully put away until next year, and the sparkling, colorful lights fade into the long winter ahead. Yet, the new year brings new beginnings, new adventures, and new milestones to achieve.

We had such an outstanding respite in Pittsburgh that it was tough to drag Bertha out of storage in order to resume our trek. We enjoyed a warm home, family, and fun times in the steel city. We had time to play games, shop in the Strip District, catch Shen Yun at the Benedum Center, and even take a winter hike at Raccoon Creek State Park. It was with a hint of heartache that we said bye to The ‘Burgh, but we shall return…

After a few months in storage, Bertha was covered in a dusty film, and was in total disarray. All of our packed “stuff” was tossed inside. The plan was to organize when we arrived at our initial campsite. I had imagined an orderly transition. What was I thinking? My optimism was misplaced and short lived. We pulled into cold, wet Hungry Mother State Park in southern Virginia, only to discover that Bertha was back to misbehaving.

If you pile a whole bunch of clothing, too much clothing, onto a closet rod, then bounce up and down the road for several hours, the plastic brackets will break, the rod will fall, and the clothes will become a tangled heap that is intermingled with the shoes, etc. that are on the closet floor. You learn some things the hard way.

While I sorted through the labyrinth of garments, my husband heard an audible, snake-like, hiss, which turned out to be a propane leak. Great. We resumed this crazy lifestyle, knowing that it was replete with imperfections. We proceeded, undeterred, to pull out the toolbox, rehang the curtain rod, and tighten a nut on the gas line. No hiss. Good sign.

All seemed to be reparable. Oh contraire, mon frère….

There was more in store.

“Optimism is a psychological disorder exhibited by those out of touch with reality.”

Oliver Pell

As we hooked up the water, we realized our rebellious RV, Bertha, would have the last laugh. Nothing was flowing from the faucets, not a drop. The water filter, however, was overflowing and spouting like Old Faithful, all over the bathroom floor. We tried a number of liquid seals and caulks, which only slowed the leak to a gush, rather than a geyser. No running water for us until we could find a replacement. Thank God for bottled water and bathhouses.

It was not an ideal start but even through rain, cold, and indoor flooding, we were able to discover beauty in our surroundings. Hope springs eternal.

After three days without indoor plumbing we pulled into Lazy Acres Campground in Lenoir City TN. It was here that we found Kyle, a certified RV mechanic (and angel on earth), who determined that we were missing an O-ring, which undoubtedly was lost during the winterization process. He helped us to replace it and we were, once again, up and running. There was a tiny drip, but we put a sponge under it, and were at least able to wash dishes, take showers and flush toilets.

It felt like Springtime when we arrived at Noccalula Falls Campground in Gadsden, AL. The sun was bright, and the air had warmed to almost 70 degrees. Not bad for January.

This municipal park has numerous camp sites, multiple hiking trails, and awe-inspiring water falls.

Downtown Gadsden is only a few miles from Noccalula Falls. It is charming, with old diners and old theatre’s lining the main street. There are restaurants and antique shops, and The Back Forty Brewery, which boasts a renowned selection of craft beer and live entertainment.

I highly recommend throwing this stop into your bucket list. There are so many hidden gems in our own backyards.

We hiked under cascading torrents on the Gorge Trail. The mist created spectacular prisms as the sun shone through the dew. We were enthralled with the power and majesty of running water…

—until we discovered that our water filter was leaking again. Trying to address it was a poor choice. Tinkering only made it worse.

Water, water everywhere.

It’s good to have a sense of humor in the face of nearly continual adversity. Bertha is an unreliable beast.

Stay tuned….

A cup of kindness for Auld Lang Syne…

“Celebrate endings—for they precede new beginnings.” 

Jonathan Lockwood Huie, author

Christina Rossetti wrote the lyrics to a beautiful Christmas Carol about the “bleak midwinter”. It celebrates finding hope when surrounded by feelings of being forsaken. The Holiday season is like that. Celebrating the birth of a savior, hanging sparkling lights, telling Santa stories, and carefully wrapping gifts; all which bring color to an otherwise faded winter palette. Hope is the key for 2023.

Shiny ornamentation brings iridescence, but it is family that brings the warmth. When I (through a veil of utter denial) understood our house would NOT be built in 2022, I had a mini-meltdown. Okay, it was a major meltdown, complete with tears, and a trip to the liquor store. I had nightmare-quality visions of being stuck in an RV, in a remote area, with inadequate heat, and a spindly, tree twig serving as our sole reminder of the holiday season. I already spent one, lonely, yuletide in a campground, I could not bear two, nontraditional Christmas’ in a row. Thanks to my sister’s abundant hospitality, and visits to our sons, we were blessed with homes filled with laughter and merry-making.

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.” ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

I am quite certain that there is nothing more magical than the chortling of a child. Our Christmas morning was filled with giggles of complete glee, as our wide-eyed, grand-nephew ripped open packages. The deep, genuine, belly-laughter was the best gift of the day; a patent reminder that the best presents are not those that are under the tree.

Sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, husband, sisters, grandchildren; these are the gifts that matter. Christmas is all about love and kindness. It’s that simple.

2022 has brought it’s share of challenges and frustrations, but it has also provided adventure and discovery. We have enjoyed mountainous treks, panoramic views, alluring lakes, and an opportunity to explore. We have not lost our wanderlust. Our passion for RV rambling has not come to an end. We merely needed a holiday hiatus.

In less than two weeks, we will be on the road again, keeping close tabs on home construction, but still enjoying the gift of globetrotting.

Happy New Year to all. May 2023 bring good health, good times, and safe travels. Stay tuned…..

Santa’s coming to the Steel City

My mom’s family was from Beaver Falls, PA, which, is not technically Pittsburgh, but it may as well have been. She had endless Pittsburgh pride. She had a deep appreciation for the hardworking, blue collar laborers, who made up most of the population of her hometown. Her brothers were good ballplayers, and she became an avid sports fan. Forbes Field was her Mecca. She was devoted to the Pirates and was a staunch supporter of the Steelers. Her enthusiasm was contagious and we all grew up with an infatuation for the Iron City.

Isn’t childhood a wonderful place? As a kid, I desperately wanted to live in the Pittsburgh area. My cousins were there. Roberto Clemente was there. Franco Harris was there. Our family made a bi-annual trek across the state of Pennsylvania to visit family but we never stayed long enough. There were always tears when we got in the car to head back east.

Thanks to the generosity of my sister, I am living the dream for two months. I can listen to KDKA, and head “Dahntahn” to visit Station Square and the Strip District. I can visit family, eat chipped, chopped ham, and put fries on just about anything. If yinz’ are from dahn this way, you’ll understand.

Toyland, toyland
Little girl and boy land
While you dwell within it
You are ever happy there

Victor Herbert, Babes In Toyland

PIttsburgh may not be the fantastical nirvana that I envisioned as a child, but it is a joyful, wonderland during the Christmas season.

Childhood’s joy land
Mystic merry toyland
Once you pass its borders
You can ne’er return again

Victor Herbert – Babes In Toyland

I have so many memories of idyllic Christmas moments. As a result, I always want my Yuletide to mimic a Hallmark Movie. I want everyone to be wearing festive clothing while sipping hot chocolate, singing carols in 4-part harmony, and opening the perfect gifts, one-at-a-time. Let’s just say that my expectations tend to be a bit too lofty, and as a result, am always just a little sad at the way things transpire, but I am determined to make the best of the mess that is our reality.

So, in the meantime, we are shopping, visiting the local harness racing track, spending time with a cousin who purchased a mid-century, architectural marvel of a home, and dining at the historic, Grand Concourse with lifetime friends.

When you’ve grown up, my dears
And are as old as I
You’ll laugh and ponder on the years
That roll so swiftly by, my dears
That roll so swiftly by

Victor Herbert – Babes in Toyland

As the end of this year approaches, I am reminded of just how swiftly time is rolling by. It seems that this journey is interminable. Waiting for our house to be built is anxiety provoking, but I just have to keep the faith and enjoy the bumpy ride.

I am looking forward to celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our daughter, my sister, nieces, nephews-in-law and grand-nephew. Then off to Maryland for continuing festivities with sons, daughters-in-law and grandkids.

I’ll let you know how that Hallmark thing works out…

Stay tuned…

Bertha Takes A Break

As the days grew shorter and nights grew colder, I knew our time at The Cherry Hill RV Park was coming to a close. Moving on is always fraught with emotion. Life marches forward, but, as always, I was hesitant to leave family and friends. At least our last few weeks in Maryland were chockfull of Halloween hijinks, fall baseball, and an opportunity to temporarily return to my old office and put in some productive time with some delightful and dedicated coworkers.

Our initial plans, when we moved into an RV, were to have a completed house by December of 2022. We anticipated hanging wreaths on our new windows, finding the perfect spot for the Christmas tree, and decking our brand new hallways with boughs of holly. Fa La la la La…. Instead, we were hit with the awareness that we would, unless we did something drastic, be spending another Holiday Season, stuck in a truck, with no family, no friends, and insufficient warmth.

My very kind, very brave, very gracious sister, offered us a two-month respite in her beautiful, Western Pennsylvania home. I was eager to accept her offer, as it meant an opportunity to partake in family, holiday traditions, in a home without wheels, a home with a fireplace, and a fully functional furnace.

Shortly after trekking west, and parking Bertha in an indoor storage facility, we jumped on a plane for a brief jaunt to New Orleans to join some dear friends for a Ravens versus Saints, Monday Night Football game. The weather was spectacular, the sightseeing was amazing, the company was, as always, delightful, and the Ravens did not disappoint! If you ever find yourself in The Big Easy with an afternoon to spare, I highly recommend a visit to the WWII museum. All in all, it was the perfect excursion before settling in to a new chapter in this weird journey.

Thanksgiving was graciously hosted by my eldest niece. Her home was warm and inviting. The food was abundant and delectable and the fireplace was pleasantly glowing. I am so appreciative for the time spent together, telling tales, playing games and making memories with the folks that mean so much to me. Our dogs were a bit over exuberant in their eagerness to roughhouse. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we were sincerely grateful for the large, fenced in yard. Muddy dogs are preferrable to indoor, crazy-canine calisthenics.

“No matter what the situation is…close your eyes and think of all the things in your life you could be grateful for right now.” — Deepak Chopra

Yes, there is a part of me that is a trifle malcontent about the home building debacle. I would be remiss if I did not confess to feeling a bit out of sorts about our dispossessed lifestyle, especially at this time of year. BUT, I am truly, truly appreciative for the continual love and support that has been shown by family and friends.

I am thrilled to have a home for the holidays; a home that is welcoming and provides not only shelter, but companionship, and shared joys. There are games and music, and love and laughter. There are seasonal movies and homecooked meals, and gift wrapping, and preparing for Santa.

It would not be the same if we were trying to pull off this Yuletide magic in an RV. It’s hard to be cousin Eddy.

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ”
― Norman Vincent Peale

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, we recognize that our setbacks are temporary, and that, through the uncertainty, we are still blessed beyond measure. Our house has been released for construction, and although we will remain vagabonds for several months, we hope to be settled in the spring.

Peace to you and yours. Santa is on his way. Stay tuned…

Wait! It’s Already October?

I’m not sure how it happened, but pumpkins and scarecrows are beginning to appear in stores, on lawns and all over the campground. The evenings are dark and chilly. The early mornings are starlit and downright cold. I stepped out of the camper to walk Gypsy the other morning, saw my breath, and had to break out my hat and gloves. Goodbye, sweet summer.

It happened so quickly. Like Usain Bolt, time seems to be flying by in one rapid-fire blur. One minute we were enjoying September swims, and the next, we were cuddled up, trying to keep warm at fall baseball games. October kind of snuck up on me. Maybe it’s because I have come out of retirement for a short time, to pitch in at my former place of employment. I confess that I had quickly forgotten how precious spare time is when you are working a fulltime schedule. I am thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to be gainfully productive, but I miss my morning crosswords with coffee, long hikes and leisure time.

In truth, I am happy that time is not trudging along. Back in early May, when I knew I would be living in a truck for another full year, I began to despair. A year seemed like such an interminably, long time. It was then that I began to view this trip around the sun as an Advent-ure calendar. A calendar, of which I have already opened over 150 days filled with unforeseen wonders and unexpected twists and turns. And here I am, only seven or eight months from having a solid roof over my head again. I remain optimistic that the construction will be completed on time.

One unexpected twist was learning that my son, who has been writing for the New York Times, would be appearing on live, nationwide television discussing the Adnan Syed case, and Baltimore politics.

You just never know that is going to be behind the door of this Advent-ure calendar!

I’m so proud of his accomplishments.

“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”
― Humbert Wolfe

I don’t love the short days and the cold nights. I am not a fan of coats and layered clothing. Yet, I love fall covers, and cool air coupled with warm sun. I like harvest moons and migrating geese. I like Ginger Snaps, pumpkin ales, simmering stews and cozy blankets. I also like campers who are in the Halloween spirit.

The remnants of Hurricane Ian welcomed October to the DC area. We had some wet weather and breezy conditions. Foul weather can be arduous in an RV but we are dry and warm. Big Bertha has provided more than adequate shelter. I continue to count our many blessings.

My heart goes out to the victims of this catastrophic storm.

“It must be October, the trees are falling away and showing their true colors.”
― Charmaine J Forde

Holiday season approaches. Stay tuned….

Fall, Football & Fearless Friends

I’m back to work, at least temporarily. I’ve gone from lazy, leisure-filled mornings, sipping coffee and solving word games to 4:30 a.m. wake-up calls and battling the Beltway. Stars illuminate the path for my early morning jaunt with Gypsy, then it is off to the gym for a pre-workday workout. When I-95 is being kind, which is not often, I can get back to Big Bertha by 6:00 p.m. Traffic delays are just a part of the routine. <sigh>

Now that long days and jam-packed weekdays are the norm, I have to pack my weekends with fun, family, friends, frivolity and football. It’s fall, you cannot underplay the football factor. We recently joined our fellow Ravens fans for a successful food drive that was the kick-off to a victory over the New York Jets. Several days later, Gypsy and I wandered over to the University of Maryland and crashed a Terps tailgate party. We were trick-or-treating for free beer and food. It’s not yet October, but we felt the need to practice our begging skills so that we are in top form for Halloween.

“Crazy friends provide for crazy times, and such crazy times we’ve had.”

Neil Young

We’ve all got that friend, that crazy friend who is willing to strap on heavy rappelling gear, climb to the top of a high-rise, and risk life and limb to raise money for a special cause.

Ravens Roost 4, has been fund raising for Special Olympics Maryland for decades. Roost members have been “Freezin’ for a Reason” by jumping into the icy waters of the Cheseapeake Bay for the Polar Bear Plunge, and into the frigid waters of Deep Creek Lake for the Deep Creek Dunk for years and years. These efforts have netted thousands and thousands of dollars, providing Maryland’s special athletes opportunity to develop skills and compete in various athletic endeavors.

The latest fundraiser, OVER THE EDGE, involved rappelling down a 12-story office building.

With great pride, we watched Betty hurl herself down down a windowed, concrete wall. She’s determined and dedicated, with nerves of steel and a whole lot of lunacy. She’s a hero.

It was amazing to watch the Special Olympians cheer her on. There is a genuine gratitude that is reflected upon the faces of those who benefit from these feats of bravery.

Gypsy had an opportunity to shake hands with a few of the athletes and there was a whole lot of mutual love between them.

Monday morning will arrive too quickly. I am off to enjoy one of the last summer-like Sundays of the year with my glorious grandkids. I’ll be streaming football while playing at the campground pool.

Go Ravens! Stay tuned…

Somewhat Stationary and Semi-Retired

After a whirlwind of summer travel, we have temporarily settled down in the Washington, DC area. We are in a campground that is close enough to the kids and grandkids that we can enjoy some much-needed family time before resuming our quest for a quieter, lakefront life. It’s been a long, erratic expedition. Ten months of life in a truck, doing battle with Big Bertha’s list of bugs and breakdowns has been taxing. I feel like Don Quixote, battling windmills, in search of grand adventure. It’s time for a short intermission.

“This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far… “

Joe Darion ~ Man of La Mancha

It certainly is wonderful to be within reach of both family and friends during this hiatus. We’ve been able to enjoy campground activities with the young kids and some Maryland State Fair, horse racing with the old kids. It’s good to be a kid no matter your age!

This temporary hiatus also placed us in commutable distance from our home builder. We spent a day selecting flooring, paint, placement of electrical outlets and materials for kitchens and bathrooms. With limited choices, due to supply chain issues and inflation, some of the selections were a little difficult to make. Yet, we left feeling confident that we made practical, but decent design decisions.

I have champagne tastes but a Budweiser budget. I don’t want to pay for future home upgrades with my retirement funds. Thus, I am back to the grind. I have been very fortunate to have a former employer who has welcomed me back, to fill in when there is a need. I enjoy the work, the challenges, and the camaraderie. I am thrilled and grateful to have this option. It gives me a sense of purpose without the burden of a prolonged commitment. Temporary assignments are perfect for me.

Fall sports will undoubtedly monopolize much of my free time for the next several weeks. I thoroughly enjoy watching my son coach a 12-U baseball team, for which my grandson plays 1st base. Passion for the game must be a part of our DNA. We have a multi-generational love for life on the diamond.

The boys of summer are advancing into Autumn….

Fall is also football season, and a good many of my friends are gridiron groupies. It’s time for the season openers.

Let’s go Ravens. Stay tuned….

Coasting into Summer’s End with a Lifelong Friend

“The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever.”

~ E.B. White

I love summer. I love the long days, and the embrace of the sun. I like flip flops and tank tops and sultry, starry nights. I love wading in the warmish water. I love the smell of Coppertone and the songs of the cicadas. George Gershwin had it right, “the livin’ is easy” in summertime. It is why I always slowly, slowly, with a bit of sorrow, surrender to autumn.

We are spending the tail end of August at Lum’s Pond State Park, along the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. I was so delighted that my dear friend (of 48 years…. but who’s counting?) was able to join us for part of the journey. We have been bosom buddies, soul-sisters, for nearly five decades, and have an uncanny ability to simply pick-up where we left off. Even with our incessant chatter, we were able to manage some biking, some hiking, some singing around the campfire, and a few card games. Because we noticed signs of impending autumn all around us, we squeezed as much summer as we could out of each and every day spent together. These are treasured times.

If you have not biked along the C & D Canal, you should add it to your bucket list. It is roughly 15 miles in length, extending from Delaware City, Delaware to Chesapeake City, Maryland. The ride has a few small hills, requiring a gear change or two, but for the most part it is flat and runs alongside a scenic canal. Delaware City has a quaint shopping area and several places to grab some crabs or a cold drink. Truly a must do for any cycling enthusiast or an amateur like me, who rides a Schwinn purchased from Target. I’m neither appropriately equipped, nor particularly skilled, but I make up for it in determination.

We are capitalizing on the recreational opportunities that are available to us at Lum’s Pond. We have biked the park trail, which is roughly 9 miles of varying terrain. There is loose rock, fine gravel, sand, mud, grass and a few interesting roots to navigate through. I am prone to panic and have been known to dismount and walk my bike when the topography gets too tough. Not my husband. He’s still got a bit of youthful, daredevil in him. He is the Evil Knievel of the senior citizen, trail riding circuit, and now he has the bruises to prove it. Public Service Announcement: Wear your helmet. He’s glad he did.

Even Gypsy is getting in on the action. Lum’s has a dog park with an off-leash hiking area that includes a beach. It is the perfect place for dog lovers who want their furry friends to have the freedom to run, swim and socialize.

As the few days left in August dwindle down, we will continue to enjoy this location. The campsite is spacious, the park is enormous, and the area offers much to do. I am not always overjoyed about life in a truck, but I am sincerely grateful for every day that I am surrounded by nature’s abundant riches. Homeless but healthy. It could certainly be worse.

College Park, here we come….

We are eager to spend football season with family and friends in our old stomping grounds. Stay tuned….